COVINGTON, Ga. -- To say it was a special season for the Newton Rams basketball teams would probably be a bit of an understatement.
Both the boys and girls squads made joint history by advancing to the Class AAAAAAA Final Four, making Newton the first school in Newton County Schools history to carry two teams that far in the state basketball tournament at the same time.
Of course, the Lady Rams took it a step further by playing for the program’s first state championship since 1963. And while the other teams in the county weren’t as successful in the win column, the truth is the county’s other four teams — the Alcovy and Eastside boys and girls — all narrowly missed postseason berths by losing close state tourney qualifying games in their respective region tournaments.
Combined, the Eastside and Alcovy boys and girls teams lost their four first round region tournament games by a combined 15 points.
The Eastside girls, in particular, were a tremendously improved team in coach Gladys King’s third season. The Lady Eagles were finished 9-14 overall and 6-6 in Region 4-AAAA, good for fourth place. It was Eastside’s best region finish since it capped the 2014-15 campaign trailing only Henry County in the region standings.
Meanwhile, Eastside’s boys noticeably improved down the stretch of the season as coach Brent Wren found himself having to replace close to 80 percent of his offense from the 2016-17 state tournament team.
The Eagles gave us perhaps one of our most electrifying moments of the season when, in the waning seconds of their last game against Alcovy, Killien Glover knocked down an improbable 80-foot, full-court heave to send the game into overtime.
Both Eagles teams lost narrowly to Woodward Academy in the first round of the Region 4-AAAA tournament. Meanwhile, Alcovy’s boys squad found some late-season momentum that almost carried it past Evans in their first round Region 3-AAAAAA tournament game.
Alcovy fell to Evans by one point in overtime, keeping it from a state tournament berth. The Lady Tigers had a similar heartbreaking 37-34 loss to Lakeside that kept them out of further postseason play.
All and all, it was an entertaining season that honestly left us with more questions than answers and things to look forward to for 2018.
We want to congratulate our players of the year, both from Newton. Ashton Hagans for the boys and Jurnee Smith for the girls.
Hagans has won virtually every postseason accolade imaginable after a stellar junior year where he averaged almost 21 points and 11 assists per game. He led a young Newton squad to a Final Four appearance. Meanwhile, Smith averaged close to 16 points per game, and combined her TCN Player of the Year honor with First Team All-Region accolades, along with Region 8-AAAAAAA girls Player of the Year, Lexii Chatman.
Both Chatman — last year’s TCN Girls Player of the Year — and Smith could’ve won player of the year honors without much argument. But we gave the nod to Smith, just because of her stellar and unflappable play down the stretch of the season.
Smith, in the words of girls coach of the year, Tiffani Johnson, was the “poise” of the Lady Rams’ Class AAAAAAA state runner-up squad. Her ball handling, steady decision making and timely scoring in clutch, high-pressure moments helped tip the scales her way.
In this edition, we’ve got Q&As with our two players of the year. We also present our full All-County squads, complete with plenty of solid photos and we’ll take a look at five top storylines we’ll be following during the basketball offseason.
Enjoy our special All-TCN Basketball section, and congratulate these players and coaches for treating us to some quality basketball right in our own backyard.
All-TCN Boys Team
Player of the Year: Ashton Hagans, Newton
Coach of the Year: Rick Rasmussen, Newton
First Team Roster
Dre Butler, Newton
Armani Harris, Newton
Tyrease Brown, Newton
A.J. Paschal, Alcovy
Dai’Veon Robinson, Eastside
Second Team Roster
Tre Clark, Newton
Killien Glover, Eastside
Donald Kay, Alcovy
Tyler Glover, Newton
Jerry Mays, Eastside
Honorable Mention: Gabe Gates, Newton; Shaquille Brown, Alcovy; Juwan Johnson, Newton; Dray Middlebrooks, Alcovy; Ennis Wilfolk, Social Circle.
All-TCN Girls Team
Player of the Year: Jurnee Smith, Newton
Coach of the Year: Tiffani Johnson, Newton
First Team Roster
Lexii Chatman, Newton
Erianna Card, Newton
Diamond Swift, Newton
Alysee Dobbs, Eastside
Ariyan Franklin, Alcovy
Second Team Roster
Rachel Hilliard, Newton
Jada Franklin, Newton
Je-nya Smith, Newton
Serai Johnson, Alcovy
Ta’Niyah Douglas, Eastside
Honorable Mention: Takiya Cotton, Newton; Amiyah Williams, Social Circle; Ajoyus Tuggle, Alcovy; Chasity Smith, Eastside; Nia Davis, Eastside.